Monday, January 23, 2012

Change the story

It's not surprising that so many companies are so bad at corporate communications. While most people will allow that communication is an art, and that some people are better communicators than other's, it's a rare CEO who will allow himself to be overruled by Communications when s/he has something to get off of his/her chest. Still, it's remarkable that RIM could present their new CEO in a fashion so uninspiring as to prompt a Wall Street sell-off.

Just for fun, let's look at what RIM should have done, and compare it to what RIM actually did.

What RIM should have done:

  1. Accept that the company is facing severe challenges.
  2. Accept that management is at least partly at fault for these challenges.
  3. Accept that no one outside the building is inspired by the products they're making now or have announced for the near future.
  4. Break with the past: introduce a new leader with strong credentials, recruited from a rival, who comes in with a bold plan for the future.
  5. Continue to change the story by talking about how future products will be different, radically different, in a way that holds out the prospect of leap-frogging the competition and competing with iOS and Android in the next generation.
What RIM actually did:
  1. Continue on with the unconvincing story that there's nothing wrong with the Blackberry product line, they just need to improve on execution.
  2. Move the co-CEO's into new positions where they will be able to continue to exert a great deal of influence on company direction.
  3. Bring in a CEO from just down the hall -- he was formerly the COO -- and allow him to talk with no visible passion about how he's going to maintain the company's direction.
  4. Offer extremely unconvincing arguments that the company's problems can be solved with better marketing. 
Ultimately a company's communications come from the C-level heart; even if you have a strong story to tell, you can't keep your CEO on message if he really, truly believes something different. And this is why RIM is doomed: they've lost 75% of their market value over the last four years, but they still think that they're right and Apple is wrong.